UEFA Champions League 2020/21 Play-off Round Draw
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The Champions League group stage kicks off on Tuesday as the field of 32 will begin their march across Europe, with dreams of playing in May in Istanbul. But only two teams will make it to the historic Turkish city for the right to be crowned champions of the continent. You can catch all the action from start to finish on CBS All Access.

We're in store for plenty of mouth-watering clashes of titans and plenty of household names -- Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland -- and not-so-familiar names stealing the spotlight. To set the scene ahead of Tuesday's opener, the CBS Sports stable of soccer writers is here to prognosticate how things will play out this season. 


Luis Miguel Echegaray: PSG

Money eventually wins and this team, after last season's loss in the final to Bayern Munich, will learn their lessons and come out victorious thanks to a deeper squad. PSG are just too big, too talented and too strong to not come out victorious. The added pieces of Rafinha, loan additions of Danilo Pereira, Alessandro Florenzi and Moise Kean will help in busy periods, making sure the undeniable stars such as Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappe are not overused over the course of the season.  

Jonathan Johnson: Bayern Munich

For me, the strongest team and squad in Europe right now. Having picked up this season the way that they finished last, plus some very smart off-season business, I see dynastic potential in this current Bayern.

James Benge: Manchester City

There is very little not to like about this team at full strength, particularly with Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte looking, on paper at least, to be a centre-back pairing that accentuates each other's qualities. Further up the pitch you have a cavalcade of attacking options, enough to turn any game in City's favour. Pep Guardiola may have had his moments of overcomplication but if he can trust what works there is enough quality to carry this team to the title.

Roger Gonzalez: Juventus

The Old Lady gets over the hump as Matthijs de Ligt returns to top form, with Cristiano Ronaldo winning the UCL with his third different club as he scores twice in the final. Last season, Bayern didn't look like a contender early in the season either. 

Sandra Herrera: Bayern Munich

The German side will stay dominant in the Champions League with players like Robert Lewandowski and Canadian international Alphonso Davies. They'll win their group and be a tough side to get past in later rounds and win back-to-back titles.

Igor Mello: Manchester City

This has got to be the season where Pep Guardiola's side finally reaches the continental mountaintop, right? Right? It won't be easy, and they'll need to have luck (of the draw) on their side and stay injury-free despite boasting an incredibly deep roster.


Luis Miguel Echegaray: Manchester City

This is it for Pep Guardiola. It's final or bust and luckily for him ... it's final. There is no doubt that Man City are stronger and deeper this time around and surely, Pep will not make the same mistakes as last time when he overtinkered and played around too much with his tactics, forcing a loss to Real Madrid. This time around, however, he will go back to what he knows best and focus on possession and the incomparable Kevin de Bruyne. The problem is, PSG will see their KDB and raise a Kylian Mbappe, who will kill them on the counter and beat City to the trophy. Guardiola will have to do what he's done all his career, wait for Lionel Messi to arrive in order to finally win the Champions League. 

Jonathan Johnson: PSG

Last season was a big improvement for PSG, yet they come into this campaign with some major questions to answer after a difficult summer transfer window. Less experienced, although still able to call on the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, the pressure is on coach Thomas Tuchel to improve on last term after a very public quarrel with sporting director Leonardo.

James Benge: Bayern Munich

Yes they lost Thiago to Liverpool, who became my immediate favourites until that Virgil van Dijk injury. He has gone mostly unreplaced so far -- maybe Joshua Kimmich can be the man to succeed Europe's greatest midfielder -- but when you've added Leroy Sane to the collection of wingers that propelled you to last year's title you won't be too badly off.

Roger Gonzalez: Manchester City

Pep Guardiola gets his team deep in the competition, they avoid a shock exit in the early parts of the knockout stage and make the final with Kevin De Bruyne leading the way.

Sandra Herrera: Manchester City

City finally get through to the final but miss out on the top prize, possibly either due to lingering injury to key players along the way or suspensions. 

Igor Mello: Barcelona

This is obviously not a popular pick given all of the Messi drama, but please take the time to consider this: Their form in 2020 won't matter come February when the knockout stages begin. For Dutch manager Ronald Koeman, it's all about getting this squad ready for the early stages of 2021 given that they're in a group that promises to be somewhat of a cakewalk (outside of Juventus). Finishing second behind Juve in that group won't be the end of the world.

Surprise group-stage elimination

Luis Miguel Echegaray: Manchester United

I have said it from Day 1: This group is just not kind to United. Nevermind the forces of Thomas Tuchel's PSG, the Red Devils also have to face RB Leipzig, last season's semi finalists and beautifully managed by Julian Nagelsmann. Unfortunately for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his managerial tactics are too limited to out smart the German side and will be eliminated, dropping down to Europa League, which still seems like a slap in the face to Europa teams.

Jonathan Johnson: Inter Milan

Not such a massive surprise when you bear in mind that Inter were in the Europa League late last season, this is more because they have been handed a tricky group and that I was surprised to see the divisive Conte kept on as coach after things deteriorated last campaign. With Real likely to occupy top spot, the fight between Inter, Shakhtar and Monchengladbach for second promises to be fierce.

James Benge: Inter Milan

I was inclined to go for Manchester United but this is supposed to be about surprises and it's eminently believable that RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain will find their way past the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer experience. As for Inter, their group with Shakhtar and Gladbach feels like the sort where Real Madrid quite convincingly claim top spot and it becomes about who can win the mini-league.

Roger Gonzalez: Manchester United

PSG and RB Leipzig advance from the group as the Red Devils are relegated to the Europa League, which also results in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer losing his job. That defense proves it's below average. 

Sandra Herrera: Manchester United

A strong group with teams like PSG and Leipzig will be tough for a team that is dealing with defensive woes that will likely haunt them in the Champions League.

Igor Mello: Atletico Madrid

This is an aging roster that tried to address their attacking needs with a band-aid in Luis Suarez, who is primed to have some big nights in Europe. But ultimately, my biggest concern for Diego Simeone's side is whether or not they can get any points in their meetings against Bayern Munich. If they drop both meetings, then they're on thin ice and have little room for error against the likes of Jesse Marsch's Red Bull Salzburg and Marko Nikolic's Lokomotiv Moscow. Call me crazy, but I see this side dropping to Europa League football.

Surprise group-stage winner

Luis Miguel Echegaray: Atalanta

Gian Piero Gasperini's side are not exactly a surprise package as we saw what they did last season to make it to the quarter final stages and what they do in Serie A on an almost consistent basis. This is the most fun team in the tournament, with zero regard for anything other than scoring goals and proverbially punching you in the face with their ultra-aggressive attacking strategies. Their group, however, is not easy (Liverpool, Ajax and the underrated Midtylland) but I think this steam train, now with a year of Champions League experience under their belt, will only get hungrier. 

Jonathan Johnson: Zenit

Although they often fall short in the Champions League, Zenit are leading the way in Russia and will fancy their chances in a winnable group. Lazio have suffered badly since the restart, while Dortmund are inconsistent and Brugge generally struggle to translate their recent domestic success into continental form.

James Benge: Sevilla

If they can get over their pathological inclination for the Europa League Group E seems well-suited for Sevilla, who strengthened rather impressively in the summer. Even the loss of Ever Banega was mitigated by the addition of Ivan Rakitic. Even Julen Lopetegui hyping Chelsea as a pre-tournament favourite seemed to suit Sevilla, who are invariably at their best against top tier European opponents.

Roger Gonzalez: Marseille

The French club, back in the UCL after nearly a decade, reaches the round of 16 instead of Porto with some clutch goals from Dario Benedetto. 

Sandra Herrera: Borussia Monchengladbach

The Bundesliga side is in the best group where we can see a shakeup. Could advance out of the group on top or on points and if they get advance could maybe even make some nouse in the knockout stage with goals from Alassane Plea.

Igor Mello: Lazio

Would this be a big shocker? Probably not, but that's only because Group F, outside of Borussia Dortmund, is lacking a second heavyweight club. If Dortmund's youngsters trip up in Russia against Zenit or in Belgium against Brugge, then it's anyone's guess as to who will finish up top. I'm going to Ciro Immobile and The Eagles of Rome.